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Is Sub-Zero cold storage another Facebook first?

Image by Wired

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

According to Wired’s coverage of Facebook over the years, they have definitely elevated themselves from a technology perspective as a leader in data center design and economics.  First, they shared their Open Compute, then came talk about an Open Storage concept, and now plans for a Cold Storage system that, according to the Wired article and Tom Furlong, vice president of site operations at Facebook, it’s “a hard-disk storage server that powers off when it’s not in use.”

“It’s going to sit in a dedicated building that is optimized to support this device that we don’t need to access very often.”

Called Sub-Zero, this 62,000-square-foot building is right next to its 330,000-square-foot Prineville, Oregon data center. Its sole purpose: “do the kind of large-scale deep archiving that some companies still achieve with tape backup.” It’s in the early stages of development, but when complete, the main data center will be able to backup / archive to the Sub-Zero data center with a much smaller power footprint (around 1.5 kW / rack).

I wonder what tweaks Facebook is doing to accomplish this. Of course, we may never know, unless they intend to make this “Open” much like their other data center innovations. We will see.

Before diving into the Wired article, I had a conversation with our friends over at Elliptical Media – whom I blogged about here. We were discussing mobile data centers, and it dawned on me.  What’s stopping smaller cloud providers — much less medium to large enterprise customers — from doing the same thing Facebook is doing?  The technology is there to do it, with some custom software tweaks here and there.

Go with me on this one…take an Elliptical Media R.A.S.E.R HD, R.A.S.E.R DX or C3-S.P.E.A.R outfit it with some storage systems running Seagate drives with PowerChoice Technology, and add some software script customization, and voila, emergency cold storage that just so happens to be mobile as well. Seagate has been shipping drives with PowerChoice since 2007. A feature that enables users to tell the drives to spin down to one of four Idle modes, or standby mode based upon their specific window of usage. Once in standby mode it takes the drive 8 seconds to get back to ready, so as long as the script tells the system to kick in 8 minutes before the backup process begins, you’re golden.

Of course, I am minimizing the complexity a bit, but the technology exists, and has for 5 years now. Maybe it takes a Facebook idea to give it some extra legs. Just another Facebook first…maybe, but maybe not.

Related Posts:

5 takeaways from Facebook’s Open Compute Project

Is Facebook a media company or tech company?

[Video] Tour of Facebook data center



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